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Peter Stuyvesant, 1646-1664
Director-General of New Netherland

Postcard of the Statue of Peter Stuyvesant
to be constructed on Bergen Square circa 1910.
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Statue of Peter Stuyvesant in its first
location (1913-1969) on the northeast corner
of Bergen Square in front of the second PS #11.
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

 Lithograph of Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General of the New Netherlands Colony.
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Statue of Peter Stuyvesant in its second
location (1969-2010) on the north side of the plaza
in front of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. PS #11.
Photo: A. Selvaggio, 2002

 
Postcard circa 1950 of Bergen Square. In the lower right,
note the original location of the statue of Peter Stuyvesant
on Bergen Square in front of PS #11.
Source: The Jersey Journal, February 18 2010

The fourth and last Director-General of New Netherland was the somewhat notorious Peter Stuyvesant. A former soldier, he had served as governor of the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curacao, where he lost his right leg. The injury left him with the unfortunate nicknames of "Peg Leg Pete" and "Old Silver Nails" from the stick of wood studded with silver nails that was his artificial limb. The ill-fitting prosthesis may have been the reason for his reputed ill-tempered manner and autocratic style.

Stuyvesant was appointed by the Dutch West India Company in July 1646 to replace William Kieft at a time of the most vulnerability of the colony. He was also a staunch member of the Dutch Reformed Church, knew the Bible well, and attempted to strictly enforce the rules of his employer. These factors came into play when the Dutch West India Company ordered Stuyvesant, illiberal in matters of religion, to concede and allow Dutch Jews from Brazil to live in the colony in 1655 after his initial objection.

As the new governor, Stuyvesant's charge was to improve the economic status of the colony and to quell the Indian hostilities that interfered with the growth of Dutch settlements like Pavonia. In August 1655, he successfully took over the colony of New Sweden along the Delaware. He returned from that victory to handle the problems at Fort Amsterdam and Pavonia caused by the "Peach Tree War." He bargained with the Indians for the ransom of the captives and entered into negotiations that later culminated in a treaty. A peace agreement was signed on March 6, 1660. From this last Indian crisis, Stuyvesant directed settlers at Pavonia to establish a town for defense rather than live on isolated farms and estates along the Hudson River.

On January 30,1658, at Fort Amsterdam, Stuyvesant met with Indians chiefs from across the Hudson River for the repurchase of the western shore, that is "all the lands between the Hackensack and North (Hudson) rivers from Weehawken and Secaucus to the Kill van Kull (Lovero, p. 12). This paved the way for him to authorize the founding of Bergen in 1660, a major impetus for the future settlement of Jersey City. The town was built behind a square wooden palisade as a defensive measure to protect settlers against Indians. The fortified site was near elevated terrain approximately two miles from the Hudson River that was a former Indian corn field. On September 5, 1661, Stuyvesant as Director-General issued a charter of incorporation to the Village of Bergen that included a court of justice, church and school. The eight hundred foot area is now Bergen Square at Bergen Avenue and Academy Street. During the remainder of Stuyvesant's tenure, Dutch settlers, mostly from New Amsterdam, moved into Harsimus, Paulus Hook, Communipaw, Hoboken, Minkakwa (Greenville), Pamrapo and Bergen.

Four years later, Stuyvesant tried to defend New Netherland from takeover by England. Charles II and his brother James, the Duke of York, wanted to close the geographic gap in their control of the northeast coast of America. An Anglo-Dutch rivalry had developed over slave trade and the availability of cheaper goods from the West Indies. The elimination of New Netherland would also affect an end to the illicit trade conducted by the Dutch with the English southern colonies.

The Duke of York sent Colonel Richard Nichols with four ships and 400 soldiers to take over the Dutch colony. Nichols first went to Boston for additional recruits. When the English naval fleet took their position at the entrance of the New Amsterdam harbor on August 27, 1664, Nichols sent notice to Stuyvesant to surrenders. Stuyvesant tried but could not rally support among the settlers to defend the colony. Rather, the settlers and his council offered no resistance and advised him to surrender. After years of discontent with Dutch rule and Indian warfare, the colonists held back while the English claimed control of the colony. Stuyvesant surrendered to the English and the Dutch agreed to a peace treaty in 1667.

New Netherland was divided to become the English colonies of New York and New Jersey. Dutch settlers, as well as Stuyvesant, remained and accepted English rule and law that included the promise of town government. They could keep their property, religious freedom and continue trade with the Dutch. These conditions allowed the Dutch to retain their ethnic culture in America through their customs and the institution of the Dutch Reformed Church.

A statue of Peter Stuyvesant once marked the site of the village of Bergen. It stood in the courtyard of the Martin Luther King, Jr. School, formerly School No. 11, at 866 Bergen Avenue. The statue was proposed in 1910 at the commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of the founding of the village of Bergen. Sculpted by J. Massey Rhind, the eight-foot high statue originally stood on an elaborate base, twelve-feet long and eight-feet high that was later modified. The inscription on the original base read: "In the year of our Lord 1660, by permission of PETRUS STUYVESANT, Director-General, and the Council of New Netherland, around this Square, was founded and built the Village of BERGEN, the first permanent settlement in NEW JERSEY." The unveiling of the statue took place on October 18, 1913.

The statue was removed from this site on February 5, 2010, amidst some controversy. It is now in storage at The Beacon, the former Jersey City Medical Center. There are plans for the statue to be restored and eventually be placed on a new base within historic Bergen Square.

References:

Egan, Colin. "Stuyvesant Statue Belonged Where It Was." Jersey Journal 16 February 2010.
"Famed Stuyvesant Statue to Be Moved to The Beacon in Jersey City." Jersey Journal 11 August 2011.
Lovero, Joan D. Hudson County: The Left Bank. Sun Valley, CA: American Historical Press, 1999.
By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub